“The scourge of literary cant.” (Ross Douthat, New York Times Book Review )
“A wizard of macho outrage.” (The Economist )
“A rare bird among American critics...boisterous and erudite.” (London Times Literary Supplement )
“One of the heroic few.” (The Guardian )
“A fluent and culturally voracious critic, Siegel writes a mean and memorable sentence.” (Financial Times )
From the Back Cover
A provocative critique of modern frivolity and a guide to being serious in an unserious age
We used to live in a world run by serious people: politicians and religious leaders, writers and artists, journalists and academics, lawyers and business executives, who approached their work with maturity and mindfulness. Today it seems as if most of these figures have all but disappeared, leaving our country and our culture in the hands of amateurs, buffoons, and professional clowns.
Yet, according to Lee Siegel, seriousness has been elusive in every age, and every age has its own particular obstacles to living seriously. In a unique combination of fiction, memoir, history, social criticism, satire, and spiritual reflection, Siegel illuminates our contemporary distractions of profit, popularity, and instant pleasure as we search for ways to be serious in culture, in politics, and in everyday life.
Are You Serious? is a thoughtful and enlightening exploration of seriousness in all its incarnations, from the heights of intellectual endeavor to the depths of political conflict to how the word itself is used in ordinary situations, from romance to business. Siegel lays bare the forces in modern life that create the silliness all around us, and he describes how seriousness may be attained through the qualities of attention, purpose, and continuity, in satisfying lives forged in bonds of work and love.